Tag Archives: Republican Party

Is Sarah Palin Coming to Your Neighborhood? (California, Here She Comes!)

palin.terminator1.If I’m correct that Sarah Palin resigned as Alaska governor in order to lead a right wing movement that is ostensibly independent of the major political parties, then the next question is: where will she establish her new home and base of operations?

The Northeast is too liberal, the South is too connected to racial politics (and there’s too much competition for conservative leadership and not enough big money), Washington, D.C., is too much of an enemy camp, and the Midwest doesn’t have enough access to the media.

Texas is certainly a possibility, but I don’t think she’ll want to compete for power with the Bush clan.

Florida also is a possibility, but I don’t think she’ll want to compete for conservatives with both Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist.

Utah is solidly Mitt Romney and Mormon territory, and Arizona belongs to former running mate (and now political rival) John McCain.

And while Idaho might have the most ideologically receptive population, it is so far off the media radar that she might as well stay in Alaska.

That leaves California.

Specifically, Southern California.

And more specifically, Orange County.

Orange County is rich, conservative, and close to Los Angeles’ enormous media network.

And California has no nationally known conservative political figure (Arnold doesn’t count) to offer her any real competition.

In fact, the California Republican Party is so fractured because of the budget battle and the hang-them-all ideology of its tea party militants that the Republican establishment wouldn’t be able to offer any real competition to Palin’s brand of radical right-wing conservatism.

It might be very bad news for more moderate Republicans like Meg Whitman and for the statewide chances of the Republican Party, but you can bet that John and Ken would welcome her with open arms (and air waves).

Are you ready for the new Terminator?

California, here she comes!

Sarah Palin Declares Her Independence

palin.flag.01Sarah Palin is not done causing headaches for the leadership of the Republican Party.

In fact, my guess is that she is going to cause them far more pain in the near future than they or the media could ever have imagined.

At this point, politicians and the press are trying to decipher Palin’s motivation for her stunning announcement yesterday that she is resigning as governor of Alaska.

The standard analysis is that she is resigning in order to concentrate her efforts on securing the Republican nomination for president in 2012.  As Bill Kristol told Fox News after Palin’s speech: “We just saw the opening statement of the 2012 campaign.”

Others — including NBC’s Andrea Mitchell — think Palin is stepping away from politics for good.

And some claim that Palin is resigning because of soon-to-be-announced scandals, including an alleged federal criminal investigation into the rebuilding of Palin’s home.

I think they’ve all missed the forest for the trees.

Sarah Palin isn’t done with politics.

But she might well be done with the Republican Party.

Rather than relying on alleged experts (who are not in Palin’s close circle) or taking the supposed word of unnamed sources, I suggest that the best indication of why Palin resigned – and what she plans to do – comes from Palin herself.

In her speech, she specifically states that she is not stepping away from politics.  On the contrary, she repeatedly emphasized that she going to continue to work to “effect positive change,” although it would be from “outside government at this moment in time.” She was, she said, following in the never-give-up tradition of General Douglas MacArthur.  “We’re not retreating,” she said, “we are advancing in another direction.’” (As the New York Times points out, Palin got the author of the quote wrong; it was not said by MacArthur, but by Maj. Gen. Oliver Prince Smith.)

She also was clear about the kind of “positive change” she planned to effect: she was going to continue to fight against “the heavy hand of federal government [intruding] into our communities with an all-knowing attitude,“ fight against “the obscene national debt that we’re forcing our children to pay because of today’s big government spending,” and “protect states’ rights, as mandated in the 10th Amendment.”

As she did during the 2008 campaign, Palin cast herself as the champion of the people: those  “hardworking, average Americans fighting for what’s right” and those people “who still believe in free enterprise and smaller government and strong national security for our country and support for our troops and energy independence and for those who will protect freedom and equality and life.”

In other words, Palin sounded much same as she did during the presidential campaign – and she certainly didn’t sound like a person getting out of politics.

But there was a difference from her speeches during the presidential campaign.

And the difference involves the political party that she supports.

In her resignation speech, Palin said: “I’ll work hard for and I’ll campaign for those who are proud to be American and who are inspired by our ideals and they won’t deride them. I will support others who seek to serve in or out of office, and I don’t care what party they’re in or no party at all, inside Alaska or outside of Alaska.”

Repeatedly referring to her course of action as “unconventional,” “a new direction” and “no more politics as usual”  — and comparing her actions to those of William H. Seward, (Lincoln’s Secretary of State who negotiated the purchase of Alaska  — ”Seward’s Folly”), who took the “the uncomfortable, unconventional but right path to secure Alaska, so that Alaska could help secure the United States” — Palin dropped clue after clue that, like Seward, she too was going to take an “uncomfortable, unconventional but right path” to “help secure the United States.”

I think Sarah Palin told us what she is planning to do.

Yes, she is running for President.

But not necessarily as a Republican.

Sarah Palin has declared herself the leader of a movement, not merely a political party.

It was not a coincidence that Palin gave her speech on the weekend of Independence Day.

She just declared her independence from the Republican Party.

Golden State Hooverism: How the Republican Party is Destroying California

California’s state government has been vandalized and those responsible for the damage are not difficult to identify.

Nobel Prize economist Paul Krugman wrote recently in the New York Times that while “No modern American president would repeat the fiscal mistake of 1932, in which the federal government tried to balance its budget in the face of a severe recession . .  . the nation will be reeling from the actions of 50 Herbert Hoovers — state governors who are slashing spending in a time of recession, often at the expense both of their most vulnerable constituents and of the nation’s economic future.”

herbert_hoover

Of the nation’s fifty governors, Krugman singled out California’s Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for special criticism: “Arnold Schwarzenegger, in particular, deserves some jeers. He became governor in the first place because voters were outraged over his predecessor’s budget problems, but he did nothing to secure the state’s fiscal future — and he now faces a projected budget deficit bigger than the one that did in Gray Davis.”

The cause of Cailifornia’s budget crisis is the fundamental policy assumptions of the Republican Party:

· No to government regulation of markets and the economy.

·  No to taxes, even in order to fund essential government programs.

Nearly every crisis that California and the nation is now facing can be traced to Republican adherence to these principles – including our current budget gridlock, our crumbling infrastructure, our failing schools, our exploding prison and homeless populations, our shameful neglect of children and elders, and our inequitable and dysfunctional heath care system.

Here in Southern California’s Orange County – which, while it can no longer legitimately call itself “America’s Most Republican County,” voted this November for John McCain and returned local Republicans to office despite the the havoc caused by the failed economic and social policies of the Republican Party – Republican policies are devastating local communities and crippling public schools and social services.

Especially hard hit have been Orange County’s children.  Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed to balance the state’s budget by cutting billions of dollars from our public schools and community colleges, resulting in thousands of teacher layoffs and severe reductions in much needed programs and services.

As Diane Grey, a teacher in the Capistrano Unified School District, said, the budget cuts have already left her with and her fellow teachers with “No copy paper. No ink cartridges for computers. No hall passes for kids to go to the bathroom. No index cards for activities/learning. No scantrons for tests. No pens. No overhead transparencies. No nothing! In other words, nothing to do our jobs!”  Or as Susan Ross, a teacher from Northern California, said, “What more can we cut? Heat? Light? Water?”

The Republican economic and budget crisis has also lead to a drastic increase in homeless school children in Orange County. The latest figures from the Orange County Department of Education show that for the 2007-2008 school year there were 16,422 homeless students – a 20 percent increase from the previous school year’s total of 13,130.

Yet now comes the news that our Republican officials are expected this week to order crippling layoffs in the Orange County Social Services Agency, where Republican budget cutters are seeking to eliminate $30 million from the department that serves the region’s neediest and most vulnerable.

According to the Orange County Register, “Of the 4,218 Social Services employees, 193 vacant positions will be eliminated. Another 110 probationary employees and 100 permanent workers will be pink slipped as well, effective Jan. 19. The remaining employees may be forced to take off two weeks sans pay to balance the books. The jobs that will be hit the hardest are the ones that work directly with the disadvantaged.”

As a result,  Orange County will soon cut or eliminate programs that help prevent child and senior abuse and neglect, find jobs for people on welfare, and provide child care services to working parents.

As Paul Krugman noted, the Obama administration will not be able to rescue America from recession (or worse) so long as state government – and in particular, the government of California — is still dominated by the failed policies of the Republican Party.

It’s time to end Hooverism in The Golden State.

Don’t Blame Bush

The blame is already being dished as John McCain’s presidential campaign sputters toward a crushing election defeat and the Democrats are poised to take control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

mccain-and-bush

Most of the pointing fingers are aimed at the universally loathed George W. Bush, who has become the public face of both economic catastrophe and battlefield disaster.

Other leading candidates for the role of principal victim in the Republican blame game are John McCain – he didn’t run a tough enough campaign or didn’t appeal enough to the party’s evangelical or populist base – and Sarah Palin – she wasn’t ready to be president or didn’t broaden her appeal beyond the party’s evangelical or populist base.

But George W. Bush is not the cause of the Republican Party’s looming election debacle, and neither John McCain nor Sarah Palin is the reason for their party’s 2008 collapse. 

Americans like to personalize politics, preferring to embrace or repudiate personalities rather than policies.  When we evaluate our politicians, we talk about their personal qualities – such as leadership, competence, integrity, consistency, and authenticity.  We like to say that we vote for the candidate not the party.

For this reason, our public debate on the causes of the Republican has focused on questions of Bush’s incompetence, McCain’s temperament, and Palin’s ignorance.

But blaming any or all of them for the coming massive Republican defeat misses the real culprit and lets too many others off the hook.

The cause of the Republican’s imminent electoral disaster is not the personal qualities of their elected officials and candidates, but the fundamental beliefs and policy assumptions of the Republican Party. 

It is these fundamental beliefs and policy assumptions that have caused the nation’s economic meltdown, which has in turned caused the meltdown of the Republican Party.

And every single Republican office holder, from the president to the lowest down-ticket county official, regardless of their personal qualities, shares in the blame.

The modern Republican Party, and every Republican, has embraced these two basic beliefs:

  • No to government regulation of markets and the economy.  A fundamental belief of every Republican is that the economy works best – that is, it is more productive and creates more wealth – when unconstrained by regulation.
  •  No to taxes.  Every Republican believes that taxes, especially on the wealthiest Americans, should be always lower and eliminated whenever possible.  Under no circumstances should there be a tax increase, even in order to fund necessary government program. 

These two fundamental tenets of Republican policy have created the economic crisis the nation is now suffering, and nearly every other crisis that the nation is now facing can be traced to Republican adherence to these principles – including our soaring national debt, our crumbling infrastructure, our failing schools, our ecological vandalism, our oil dependency, our exploding prison population, our shameful veterans hospitals, and our inequitable and dysfunctional heath care system.

Every other Republican talking point – from abortion to immigration to support for continuing the war in Iraq – is contingent and conditional.  There are Republicans who disagree with the party leadership on these issues.

But there are no Republicans who have not sworn eternal hostility to taxes and economic regulation.  One simply cannot be a Republican without embracing these two fundamental policies that have brought near catastrophe to the world economy, to the operations of federal, state and local government, and, finally, and deservedly, to the Republican Party itself.

What has brought America to the brink of disaster and the Republican Party to the brink of an election defeat of historic proportions?

It’s not just Bush.

It’s not just McCain and Palin.

It’s Republicans.

Each and every one of them.

Don’t let Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Chris Shays, or your local Republican senator or schoolboard member put the blame on someone else.

As another famous Republican once said, they’re all bad.

“Most Republican County in USA” Going for Obama

Good vibrations:

yard_sign_6Local Republicans have proudly called Orange County, California, where I live, “The Most Republican County in the USA” on the basis of delivering George W. Bush the nation’s largest margin of victory in raw votes in 2004.

What else would you expect from the home of Mickey Mouse, the Beach Boys, the Richard Nixon Library and Museum and John Wayne Airport?

But change is coming, and coming fast, to our sunshine and subprime paradise.

Republican voter registration is falling dramatically throughout California, including Orange County.

According to the Orange County Register, “Republicans have dramatically lost ground among new California voters, particularly the young, in the past five years. . .  Republicans eventually could fall to third place in party preference, behind Democrats and the growing number of voters who choose no party at all. Even in Orange County, the state’s Republican heartland, more people registered as Democrats than as Republicans last year and this year.”

“Among current California voters, 37.7 percent of those who registered before 2000 became Republicans. That dropped to 26.6 percent among voters who registered in the past five years – and just 21.9 percent this year. In Orange County, among current voters, 52.3 percent of those who registered before 2000 were Republicans. That dropped to 39.2 percent in the past five years – and 31.4 percent this year.”

And there is even worse news for John McCain in a currently on-going Orange County Register poll.

The poll asks online readers to choose between (1) Republican voting for McCain, (2) Democrat voting for Obama, (3) Democrat voting for McCain, and (4) Republican voting for Obama.

The current results (as of 5:13 p.m. Pacific Time) are:

  • Republican voting McCain – 37%
  • Democrat voting Obama – 37%
  • Democrat voting McCain – 5%
  • Republican voting Obama – 22%

That’s 59% Republican, but also 59% for Obama.

59% for Obama in “The Most Republican County in the USA” is not good news for John McCain.

“Good, good, good, good vibrations…”

How Conservatives Created the Party of the Mob

In today’s New York Times, David Brooks writes an elegy for the modern conservative movement that was founded by William F. Buckley, Russell Kirk and George F. Will. 

police-beating

Brooks observes that modern conservatives like Buckley, Kirk and Will shared a disdain for the violent, ignorant masses as articulated in Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and the Federalist Papers, coupled with “a celebration of urbane values, sophistication and the rigorous and constant application of intellect.”

They detested the Mob.

They were anti-populist and anti-egalitarian, in culture as much as in politics. 

In short, they were elitists in the literal sense, and proud of it.

These Edmund Burke-inspired conservative elitists became the intellectual leaders of the mid-20th century Republican Party, critiquing not only the Democratic Party’s foreign and domestic policies, but also its post-Chicago Convention embrace of the youth culture of the 1960s. 

Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke

Unlike their counter-parts on the Left, they wore their hair neat and short, they wore ties and jackets not tee-shirts and jeans, they preferred classical music to rock and roll, whiskey to marijuana, and John Milton to Allen Ginsberg.  In George F. Wills’ words, they valued “the sober side of the Enlightenment.”

Now, Brooks notes, the Republican Party has rejected these urbane and elitist values, as well as the class of urban and sophisticated people with whom these values are associated. 

DS001872As Brooks acknowledges, “the Republican Party has driven away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts” and has become the party of the uneducated, the rural, the crude and unsophisticated.

In other words, the Party of the Mob.

“Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking,” Brooks writes. “Now those attributes bow down before the common touch” and “a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole.”

David Brooks is not the only conservative of the Buckley, Kirk, and Will mold who is in mourning because of the current state of the Republican Party, as indicated by the selection of self-described hockey mom and friend of Joe Sixpack, Sarah Palin. 

George F. Will has called Palin“obviously not qualified to be President.”  Similar, or more severe, criticisms of Palin have come from conservatives David Frum, Charles Krauthammer, and Kathleen Parker.  On television, you can see the same despair that Brooks articulates in his Times column on the face of David Gergan and in the stupefied expression of Tucker Carlson.

Brooks attempts to fix the blame for the ugly transformation of the Republican Party and the death of his urbane, sober, and elitist version of conservatism to the Party’s tactical decision to engage in “class warfare” against the wealthy and sophisticated. “This expulsion has had many causes,” he writes, “But the big one is this: Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare.”

I think Brooks has let the Republican Party  — as well as his fellow conservatives and himself – off far too easily.

In my view, the end of modern conservatism and the triumph of the mob rule in the Republican Party began with the “Southern Strategy” – which capitalized on white rejection of, and hostility toward, the Democratic Party’s embrace of the civil rights movement.

After a Democratic Congress and Democratic President forced the Southern states to integrate in the early 1960s and passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the Republican Party warmly welcomed into its ranks every racist in country, from Strom Thurmond to Jesse Helms to Trent Lott, along with their white resentment and anti-elite populist rhetoric.

Politically, the result was a Republican stranglehold across the South and a series of Republican electoral victories in national elections.

But the Republican Party paid a steep cultural price to become the political home of the nation’s white racists -– because the culture of white racism and resentment eventually took over the Party and became not only its “base” but its defining core.

looting3And so when George W. Bush’s ratings tanked, the Republican Party had to “energize” this core to overcome its falling popularity with other groups.

Yet as this base was “energized” -– for example, by the selection of Palin as vice president and by Palin’s inflammatory rhetoric –- other groups were driven away.  As Brooks points out, “Republicans have alienated the highly educated regions — Silicon Valley, Northern Virginia, the suburbs outside of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham. The West Coast and the Northeast are mostly gone. The Republicans have alienated whole professions. Lawyers now donate to the Democratic Party over the Republican Party at 4-to-1 rates. With doctors, it’s 2-to-1. With tech executives, it’s 5-to-1. With investment bankers, it’s 2-to-1.”

And as the Republican Party ever more desperately relied on the “energy” of its base, it lost control over the racism and resentment that made them become Republicans in the first place.

David Brooks’ mourning for conservatism and the Republican Party is based on his fear of the mob that the Republican Party has become. 

He knows that the controlling emotions at McCain-Palin rallies are now fear and rage.  He knows that people have yelled “Terrorist!” and “Kill Him!”  when Obama’s name is mentioned.

He also knows that McCain cannot control the mobthat the Republican Party has become, and that the demagogue Sarah Palin would like to inflame its rage and resentment even further.

As David Gergan said on CNNon Thursday, “This — I think one of the most striking things we’ve seen now in the last few day. We’ve seen it in a Palin rally. We saw it at the McCain rally today. And we saw it to a considerable degree during the rescue package legislation. There is this free floating sort of whipping around anger that could really lead to some violence. I think we’re not far from that. … ‘

In the end, what is so profoundly disturbing for Brooks — as well as for George F. Will, David Frum, Charles Krauthammer, Kathleen Parker and David Gergan — is that they are now all members of the Party of the Mob — that they helped to create.

Reading the 2008 Election

obama-readingI read several newspapers and numerous blogs every day, but I think my understanding of the 2008 presidential election has been shaped most deeply by a few books I read many years ago.

Here’s a short list of books that were written long before Sarah Palin entered our collective consciousness (the oldest is from 1933, the newest is from 1974), that help explain the social forces at work in the 2008 election:

Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.

antiintellectWhy do Americans hate smart people?  Why does Barack Obama need to downplay his Ivy League education, his Harvard Law degree and his presidency of the Harvard Law Review, while Sarah Palin’s ignorance about foreign policy, science, American history, and just about everything else is actually a positive on the campaign trail?  What are the roots of the Sarah Palin frontier myth, in which knowing how to hunt a moose is a more important leadership qualification than knowing how to read the Constitution?

Published in 1963 and inspired by the McCarthyism of the 1950s, this book traces the historical basis of the McCain-Palin attack on Obama as an intellectual and elitist, and the roots of that attack in Puritanism and evangelical Protestantism.  Hofstadter analyzes the 1952 presidential election in which Democrat Adlai Stevenson was positioned by the Republicans and the media as an elitist intellectual against the plain-speaking soldier Dwight Eisenhower — which calls to mind Marx’s famous quip that while history may repeat itself it does so “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”  A book that reactionaries still love to hate.

Also extremely helpful in understanding the 2008 election are Hofstadter’s The Paranoid Style in American Politics (1965) and Social Darwinism in American Thought (1944).

Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the 20th Century.

labor-monopolyWhy are Americans so stupid?  What is the correlation between crappy jobs and crappy people?  Why is the South so Red?  Why is Obama having such a hard time with blue collar voters in the Rust Belt and Appalachia?  Why is it that we can be pretty sure that nearly all of the redneck imbeciles who thought it would be a great idea to ride out Hurricane Ike in their mobile homes are voting Republican?

Braverman’s 1974 book establishes a correlation between the drastically reduced skill level, knowledge, and creative intelligence required for workers in the modern economy and the resulting drastic reduction in the workers’ ability to think for themselves.  He wrote about the rise of the factory system and the assembly line, but the degradation of work he describes has even more chilling consequences for our McJob “service economy.”

Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism.

Why do Americans worship the very powers that cut their wages, keep them without health care, ship their jobs overseas, foreclose on their houses, and send them to die in unnecessary wars?  What is the social-psychological basis of the sadomasochism inherent in the McCain POW mythology?  Why do Republicans and Country-Western singers act like fiercely independent tough guys while they slavishly prostrate themselves before authority figures and nationalistic symbols like the flag?  Why do white Americans love to hate black people, gay people, Jews, and Mexicans while they irrationally identify with and suck up to the powerful white people who are stepping on their necks?

reichWriting during the early years of the rise of Hitler, the Nazis and the fascist mass movements in Europe, Reich puts the blame on sexual repression, pervasive sexual abuse, the patriarchal-authoritarian family, patriarchal-authoritarian religion, and a totalitarian education system.  There’s lots of crazy stuff here, but also brilliant insights into the authoritarian psychology that pervades the Republican Party and much of the media, and that keeps Karl Rove in business.

Herbert Marcuse, Repressive Tolerance.

Why do crack-smoking, tattooed, heavy-metal listening, bail-skipping Wal-Mart shoppers overwhelmingly support McCain-Palin?  (The latest Rasmussen Report: “McCain leads 58% to 38% among those who regularly shop at Wal-Mart while Obama leads 61% to 36% among those who don’t frequent the retail giant.”) How did a society where almost everything is allowed (and shown on TV) produce the militaristic, sexually repressed, resentment fueled deformities on display at the Republican convention?  How does the “objectivity” of the mainstream media regarding political and moral choices (even when real) favor the repressive, bellicose Right?

marcuse2Written in 1965 with a post-script written in 1968, Marcuse’s theory of “repressive tolerance” incited the ire of some 60s radicals for critiquing as fundamentally repressive and authoritarian the then-nascent drug culture and sexual revolution of what would later be called the Woodstock generation. Marcuse writes: “The toleration of the systematic moronization of children and adults alike by publicity and propaganda, the release of destructiveness in aggressive driving, the recruitment for and training of special forces, the impotent and benevolent tolerance toward outright deception in merchandizing, waste, and planned obsolescence are not distortions and aberrations, they are the essence of a system which fosters tolerance as a means for perpetuating the struggle for existence and suppressing the alternatives.”

Or, as I’ve told a right-wing biker friend of mine: “The 60s died when assholes like you started smoking pot.”

Marcuse’s essay helps explain why.